December 30, 2015
Well, it what looks to be my last blog entry for the year (who knows if something juicy comes across my desk tomorrow) is an article in WEALTHMANAGEMENT.COM entitled "Socially Responsible Investing Comes of Age". It is geared to many in my industry who really haven't looked at Socially Responsible Investing in the near term. For a very brief article it goes into what ESG is now compared to its history and the plusses and minuses of having an SRI screen on your portfolio.
December 28, 2015
Two interesting LinkedIn articles while I was on vacation last week. Both discuss the Paris Climate Talks Agreement and how it relates to investing. While nothing earthshattering, I think both are good food for thought. Check out: "WHAT YOU CAN DO ABOUT CLIMATE CHANGE" by Joe Keefe and "WHAT THE PARIS AGREEMENT MEANS FOR INVESTORS" by Julie Gorte. The articles give a good overview of some of the choices that were made by the nations that signed the treaty.
December 14, 2015
Another great issue of the GREEN MONEY JOURNAL. The theme of the issue is "Outlook 2016 on SRI, the Economy and the Election". Several articles by some of the industry's major players of what they see going forward with SRI and how these issues might effect the election.
December 2, 2015
It has been a very busy week as far as SRI and the Environment is concerned. Right now the Paris Climate Talks are occurring with leaders from most of the world's countries. In addition Bill Gates announced that he will be launching a multi-billion dollar clean energy investment fund. Only time will tell how successful each initiative will be in stopping global warning. The INVESTMENT NEWS ran an article this morning on investing in clean technology which I was featured with many quotes.
November 4, 2015
I just got the following press release from CERES: "...The World Federation of Exchanges (WFE)—the trade group for all stock exchanges worldwide—TODAY ANNOUNCED FORMAL ESG GUIDANCE on how stock exchange members can implement stronger ESG disclosure policies for companies on their exchanges. The guidance highlights 33 specific ESG KPIs for ramping up disclosure, including energy use, water management, CEO pay ratios, gender diversity, etc. While the WFE’s guidance is voluntary, it is a huge step forward in achieving stronger, more consistent corporate reporting across the world on key sustainability trends that US SIF cares about. "
While I don't think this will change much very quickly, it will allow over time easier comparison of global companies on sustainability practices. The exchanges make it easy now to compare financials and this will add a layer of research that will eventually be consistent across the board.
October 22, 2015
The US-SIF (basically the trade organization in the US for Socially Responsible Investing released the following today:
Secretary of Labor Tom Perez announced this morning in New York City that the Department of Labor is rescinding its 2008 Bulletin on Economically Targeted Investments and reinstating the 1994 guidance on ETIs with a revised preamble that assures that “Fiduciaries need not treat commercially reasonable investments as inherently suspect or in need of special scrutiny merely because they take into consideration environmental, social or other factors.”
So, what does that mean in English? Basically if you ran a retirement plan, the old rules stated that you had to invest the assets with the only criteria being to maximize long-term profit. The new rules say that you can take ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) issues into play. The Department of Labor recognized that these factors can be a way to evaluate a company beyond the traditional financial indicators. While ESG has been used in some retirement plans, it was usually after much debate and caution. This ruling makes it much easier for employers to move forward.
October 1, 2015
This month's GREEN MONEY JOURNAL is what they called The Solutions Issue. As always several interesting articles. My favorite was on Biomimicry. While it was a topic I've heard of, I never knew the proper term for it. As they describe it, "Biomimicry is the conscious emulation of nature's wisdom, a methodology that is based not on harvesting nature but on learning from nature. This approach is beginning to shape our cities, our companies, and our social sphere, and has profound implications for investing and for life."
September 30, 2015
I've spent a lot of time thinking over the last week about Volkswagen. This is a company that was a model for many in the auto industry on creating the next generation of cars and helping the environment. After Enron and other corporate scandals, many ESG investors came out and said they could see something fishy was going on and stayed away based on their instincts. This is a different situation. While looking backwards there might have been some red flags, I have not heard a lot about any signs that kept some of the biggest ESG players to omit Volkswagen from their portfolios. It will be interesting moving forward if there were signs that could be used to avoid such a corporate scandal in the future.
September 26, 2015
Sometimes SRI seems like a lonely business model. While it is growing, most of the financial planning and investment articles that make their way across my desk have no mention of matching values to picking investment portfolios. (And I get many more SRI articles than the average planner.) That is why I found the article in Plan Sponsor Magazine to be that much more interesting. Entitled "RETIREMENT PLAN PARTICIPANTS WANT TO BE SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE: NINE IN 10 WANT INVESTMENTS TO ALIGN WITH VALUES" the article goes on to mention survey that most people want to invest with their values, but are unfamiliar with the concept and don't know what Socially Responsible Investing is. Like the Chicken and the Egg, it's up to inform more of the public what options they have and to investment providers to make sure those options are available.
September 18, 2015
For those of you who are skeptical of corporations and their green washing efforts, I highly recommend reading the article in Forbes entitled "HOW CAN WE KNOW WHICH COMPANIES ARE SERIOUS ABOUT SUSTAINABILITY? While the article gives no definitive answers, it gives examples of many different consumer goods manufacturers and tries to break down their sustainability reports relative to what the company actually does. I think its a great story about needing to look at the whole picture and not getting too caught up in the hype.
September 16, 2015
Bloomberg published an article last week titled "STOCK TIP: TRY BETTING ON COMPANIES LED BY WOMEN". It's a very simple article while many ESG investors (and investors who care more about a profit than the underlying ESG causes) are looking at building a portfolio around companies with many women in positions of leadership. From the article "The basic argument, backed up by research, is that companies with a relatively high percentage of women in power perform better than those dominated by men." While time will tell if the trend lasts it is a theory we put to work for many clients.
September 3, 2015
The September GREEN MONEY JOURNAL is all about Impact Investing. Several articles on the history of Impact Investing and where some leaders think it's heading. This is a relatively young investment concept, so be very careful before stepping forward. While I think this is the future, many of the investments I've seen floating around in this area have a lot of heart (good causes), but might not be good for the head (the investments don't add up).
August 14, 2015
Morningstar announced today that they are going to LAUNCH FIRST ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL, AND GOVERNANCE (ESG) SCORES FOR MUTUAL FUNDS GLOBALLY. For those of you who don't know, Morningstar is one of the biggest ratings of mutual funds and is used by many financial services firms and individuals. A few points from the press release:
- "Morningstar will base the scores on ESG company ratings from Sustainalytics, a leading provider of ESG and corporate governance ratings and research."
- "One of Morningstar’s core values is ‘investors first...Providing fund scores on environmental, social, and governance factors is a natural extension of our work. We want to bring even greater transparency and accountability to the investment industry with ESG research, data, and tools, while helping investors to put their money to work in ways that are meaningful to them."
- "In a study released in February, the Morgan Stanley Institute for Sustainable Investing found that 71 percent of individual investors are interested in sustainable investing. In addition, just in the past year, there was a 29 percent increase in the number of financial institutions that signed the United Nations-supported Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI) Initiative."
August 3, 2015
President Obama released earlier today "Final Clean Power Plan Establishing Clean Air Act Standard for Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Power Plants." The immediate reaction of the markets was to lower the price on most carbon based power companies. It will be interesting what happens moving forward. There are already many lawsuits filed against the plan. Many articles I've read is that this is the beginning of the end for many fossil fuel based companies and time to get out. Others argue that this is an over reaction and that it will be decades until these changes will hurt bottom lines.
July 27, 2015
Gotta love an article tilted "GIVING HIPPIES KEY TO PORTFOLIO IS NOT SUCH A BAD IDEA AFTER ALL" that was on Bloomberg last week. The article is on some studies that show ESG investing can lead to higher returns. While the whole article is short and a good read, I think the main idea can be found in the following paragraph:
"The big question, though, is why would companies with high ESG grades outperform? Researchers at MSCI believe firms that take ESG considerations more seriously are able to dodge things like environmental fines and labor disputes, as well as take advantage of clean technologies. The reduction in potential liabilities is quickly recognized by the market and priced into the shares, MSCI's researchers conclude."
July 24, 2015
Article on EQUITIES.COM about how much disclosure is required on ESG for stocks that exist in various indices around the world (45 indices in 38 countries). The indices are color coded so you can quickly figure out which give the most and least disclosure. The authors' argument behind the chart is that you can quickly see which indices give you enough information to account for ESG risks and which ones do not.
July 23, 2015
Got an article forwarded to me today written by Daniel Brooksbank titled "ESG investing has now gone mainstream to become 'minimum requirement' -Goldman Sachs." Several quotes in the article talking about how Goldman and others think SRI will be a part of most portfolio management in the near future as it shows risks and potential returns of portfolio that traditional analysis can miss and thereby potentially create better risk-adjusted returns.
July 21, 2015
Our philosophy in financial planning is based on Legacy Planning, which we see as having three stools: Multi-generational wealth management, philanthropic planning and SRI. Often the worlds overlap as people put their values first in the planning process. Article in this month's Nonprofit Chronicles titled "WHY WON'T FOUNDATIONS DIVEST FROM FOSSIL FUELS." The discussion focuses on the need many foundations acknowledge to fight climate change, but why they don't invest in a way consistent with their mission.
July 14, 2015
July's GREEN MONEY JOURNAL is A Global Look at SRI. If you're curious about how SRI is seen and done in other parts of the world there are articles on Sustainable and Responsible Investments in Asia, the UK, Europe and Canada. In many ways the other nations are ahead in what they do, but in some ways they are behind. I find it interesting to figure out which trends will come to the US and which ones will never gain appeal.
June 22, 2015
While the Green Money Journal's current issue (see comments below on June 19, 2015), doesn't have many direct ways to impact the world as a SRI investor, the summer edition of GREEN AMERICAN is full of articles specifically related to ESG issues. Articles include Investing for Change, 3 Strategies to Be a Socially Responsible Investor, and Investing More Than Money, among others. Most of the articles are short and to the point and a great place to start if you're looking at how to make your investments match your values.
June 19, 2015
June's GREEN MONEY JOURNAL focuses on Sustainable Agriculture. While I think there is very little for the average ESG investor to put into practice, there are some interesting articles to make one think about where one's food comes from and how one can make better choices about what one puts into their body.
June 18, 2015
Socially Responsible Investing means different things to different people. Living in Southern California most of our clients are focused on the Environment when building an investment portfolio. Others are motivated by such things as religion, human rights, governance issues, etc. I'm curious about how the much anticipated Pope's encyclical on the environment that was released today might help merge a couple of these issues with the same individual. (NEW YORK TIMES ARTICLE Here - Ask me if you want to see more articles). Most of our Catholic clients who invest based on faith are most worried about birth control. Many discussions to come I'm sure over the next few weeks.
June 8, 2015
While not on the subject of ESG per se, I'd like to comment that I'm very proud of my wife Cynthia Kraus and the energy Net Zero she designed with her firm OPEN HAUS DESIGN. They had their open house yesterday where 100's of visitors came by to look at this house that was remodeled from a 1950's Long Beach original. The house is designed to produce a net positive electricity each year and has many other environmental features.
June 4, 2015
Today, Newsweek published its latest annual 2015 GREEN RANKINGS, rating 500 US and 500 Global corporations on the environmental results, including Board governance and CEO pay linked to green performance, scored by Corporate Knights, led by Toby Heaps and Michael Yow. As I said last year, this shouldn't be used as the sole way to pick individual stocks, but gives some good insight on some of the largest companies and what they're doing in environmental circles. It doesn't also take into account many other factors that some of my clients have such as religion, women's rights, etc.
May 22, 2015
Article today in top100funds.com titled "CALPERS GIVES ITS MANAGERS ESG ULTIMATUM." CalPERS (the largest pension fund in the country) "will require all of its managers to identify and articulate ESG in their investment processes." The article goes on to say "CalPERS considers ESG risks as material considerations to its total portfolio due to the characteristics of the fund." It will be interesting to see what other large funds follow suit. Their basic belief is that this is an important part of evaluating securities.
May 18, 2015
"FOSSIL FUELS SUBSIDISED BY $10M A MINUTE, SAYS IMF" was the headline today in The Guardian. According to the IMF subsidies will be $5.3 Trillion for 2015. The article goes on to have this quote by Nicholas Stern of The London School of Economics, “This very important analysis shatters the myth that fossil fuels are cheap by showing just how huge their real costs are. There is no justification for these enormous subsidies for fossil fuels, which distort markets and damages economies, particularly in poorer countries.” This amount is more than the total health spending of all the world’s governments.
May 4, 2015
Depending on how you look at it, it's another case of the glass being half-full or half-empty. A new study of US Endowment funds found that 26.5% "have formally adopted responsible investment practices that incorporate at least one of four investment principles: socially responsible; environmental, social and governance; impact; and divestment from fossil fuels." While I think that this is a long way from where we were 10 years ago, many of the blogs I read have commented on how this is not nearly enough and more needs to happen. Maybe we're both right.
April 29, 2015
Bloomberg had an interesting article earlier this week called THE BUSINESS CASE FOR SUSTAINABLE INVESTING. I think it gives a good overview on how SRI has changed over the last decade and how its taken more seriously by many both because of the business case being made and the fact that the performance has not been inhibited by the choice to use ESG models. Per the article, their study "found that sustainable equity funds met or exceeded median returns of traditional equity funds during 64% of the time periods examined.
April 17, 2015
Felt fabulous today being onstage winning our Sustainable Quality Award. (Some articles in our CIA In The News section under resources). I'm very proud that our team was honored for the work we do with our clients, our world and our community. The ceremony ran long (over 2 hours) but it was full of great speakers and many businesses that are going above and beyond to make the world a more sustainable place.
April 6, 2015
Was just forwarded an article from the Denver Post entitled MORE DEMAND FOR SUSTAINABLE MUTUAL FUNDS. The article from last month talks about the increase in demand for SRI Mutual Funds. The article focuses on how Millennial's invest and some trends that might be coming up.
April 1, 2015
This month's GREEN MONEY JOURNAL is focused on Women and Socially Responsible Investing. This will be one of three features on this subject over the next 18 months. I think its a great read because women, in general, deal with money in a very different way then men. We have found over the years that the majority of our clients happen to be women. It is also satisfying to see that 3 of the 4 guest columnists are from companies that we work with to provide SRI investing for clients.
March 31, 2015
Sometimes passions collide. As someone interested in SRI and a homebrewer, it caught my attention when CERES released their BREWERY CLIMATE DECLARATION signed by 50 top breweries (including some I plan to visit next week on my spring break trip with my family to Portland). To quote the release:
"Warmer temperatures and extreme weather events are harming the production of hops, a critical ingredient of beer that grows primarily in the Pacific Northwest. Rising demand and lower yields have driven the price of hops up by more than 250 percent over the past decade. Clean water resources, another key ingredient, are also becoming scarcer in the West as a result of climate-related droughts and reduced snow pack. That's why LEADING BREWERIES ARE FINDING INNOVATIVE WAYS TO INTEGRATE SUSTAINABILITY INTO THEIR BUSINESS PRACTICES and finding economic opportunity through investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency, water efficiency, waste recapture, and sustainable sourcing."
March 24, 2015
The press release makes it official. Here is the official release showing Capital Intelligence Associates as one of the three grand prize winners of the Santa Monica Sustainable Quality Awards. There should be a couple articles on the subject in the next few weeks that I hope to feature some of the reasons we won. We will also have an article in our April newsletter about our achievement. (Look for the CIA Report link under Resources on this website). WWW.SMSQA.COM
March 17, 2015
Very proud to be a Santa Monica Sustainable Quality Award Grand Prize winner. More info coming soon. We just heard the announcement but hope to see you at the lunch on April 17th.
March 16, 2015
For those of you who are subscribers to the Wall Street Journal I recommend reading "Voices: Lisa Woll, on the Rise of Social-Impact Investing" (No link as its subscriber only). Lisa Woll is the Chief Executive of the US SIF (United States Social Investment Forum) whose research I use often when working with clients. One sample outtake: "Even investors who aren’t taking part in SRI should be aware that their investments are affected by environmental, social, and governmental factors. For instance, there are growing questions about whether companies that extract and develop fossil fuels are overvalued, given that it is unlikely that they will be able to develop all their reserves as regulations to curb greenhouse gas emissions go into effect. These companies—and their investors—could end up with stranded assets."
March 11, 2015
Washington Jewish Week published their article SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE INVESTORS SEEK TO CHANGE THE WORLD. It talks about how the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a New York-based coalition of nearly 300 organizations with more than $100 billion in invested capital, looks at shareholder advocacy to make real change. The article gives some examples of companies that have changed their policies based on pressure from the Center.
March 7, 2015
In their March/April newsletter, California CPA had an article entitled BEYOND THE BALANCE SHEET. Interesting article written from an accountant's prospective on why evaluating companies by just looking at their books isn't enough and that SRI factors are an important part of a company's value.
February 26, 2015
Just released from the GLOBAL SUSTAINABLE INVESTMENT ALLIANCE (An organization made up of various worldwide SRI organizations) SRI assets under management around the world are up 61% since 2012. As more and more people understand SRI and what it means today, more and more money is going in that direction.
February 18, 2015
Did our webinar yesterday on 21st Century Socially Responsible Investing. Hope you were able to make it. If not the replay will be available soon under our "Seminar Series" on our website.
February 17, 2015
Submitted our application to the Santa Monica Sustainable Quality Awards committee today. We were close last year and hope a few tweaks in our application will put us over the top. We think our work with clients and internally (We are a certified Santa Monica Green Business) really is what the award is all about.
February 10, 2015
Article this week in the Economists (print and online) on shareholder advocacy. While not specifically mentioned in the article CAPITALISM’S UNLIKELY HEROES, many SRI firms do the same tactics as mentioned here to create long-term value for shareholders. While the mission is sometimes a little different, the end goal is the same. Many firms fight these shareholders, but I believe that they can create value just like the article mentions.
February 3, 2015
Much of this blog is focused on the E (environmental) in ESG. Being in Santa Monica, its easy to see stories of how the environment is effecting the world and the investment climate. But I also realize that what is Socially Responsible to one person, might not be to another. Our goal is to help clients match their money to their values, no matter if their values match our own. It is important that each client who is interested in this aspect have a portfolio their fundamental believes and morality. For those of you who want to match their religion to their investing, I suggest you read this month's GREEN MONEY JOURNAL. The guest editor, Mark Regier, focuses on the role of faith-based investing in SRI's past, present and future.
January 30, 2015
Morgan Stanley Research Global released a 116 page report this week entitled Embedding Sustainability into Valuation. Another big player is really jumping into SRI/ESG with two feet. While they look at it more as a risk factor than a moral factor, the more people looking at it, the more research will be available (and hopefully more companies making the right moral decisions.) I think my view of the report can be summarized by the following paragraph:
"Traditional investment analysis requires an assessment of company accounts, industry dynamics and the politico-economic outlook. However, we believe that environmental, social and governance factors should also be incorporated into equity analysis. This should not be done at the expense of financial returns; indeed, we think that, by better understanding the environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks and opportunities that a company faces, investors can improve their investment processes and decisions."
January 27, 2015
Great op-ed article by David Brooks in the New York Times entitled HOW TO LEAVE A MARK. The rationale is that the stock market suffers from crashes. Governments and non-profits suffer from inefficiencies and gridlock. One solution might be Impact Investing. The article goes on to show why he thinks it has promise and how it is related but different than Socially Responsible Investing.
January 26, 2015
I often hear from individuals that they love ESG investing and love matching their investments to their values, but it doesn't really make much of a difference. Responsible-Investor.com ran an article today with the unwieldy title, THE IMPACT OF DODD-FRANK 1502 ON CONFLICT MINERALS: U.S. SUSTAINABLE AND RESPONSIBLE INVESTORS RESPOND. Good article if you're interested in how changes in rules that effect certain companies and how we invest in them can really make a real world difference.
January 21, 2015
Corporate Knights just released their list of the GLOBAL 100 SUSTAINABLE COMPANIES. This is definitely not a must-invest list (and according to the article you would have underperformed its benchmark if you invested in it). But the interesting part that I find is to look at the companies and the things they do to get on the list. Many of my clients know they want to invest socially responsible but don't know what issues are their most concern. Looking at a list like this and the explanations why they're put on helps solidify many people's thinking of what the most important issues to them are. Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. All performance referenced is historical and is no guarantee of future results. All indices are unmanaged and may not be invested into directly.
January 14, 2015
Rolling Stone wrote a new feature this month on divestment from fossil fuel stocks entitled THE LOGIC OF DIVESTMENT: WHY WE HAVE TO KISS OFF BIG CARBON NOW. I think the first paragraph sums it up the best: "When the fossil-fuel divestment movement first stirred on college campuses three years ago, you could almost hear Big Oil and Wall Street laughing. Crude prices were flirting with $100 a barrel, and domestic oil production, from Texas to North Dakota, was in the midst of a historic boom. But the quixotic campus campaign suddenly has the smell of smart money."
January 6, 2015
Article in this month's INC. MAGAZINE about the future of SRI. First I find it interesting because a lot of industry publications mention how this is the future, but when a mainstream magazine lists six reasons the growth in ESG investing will continue I find it all that much more interesting. Second it is who wrote it. The article is written by the Director of Public Affairs & Sustainability, Pirelli Tire North America. Most in the auto industry (with notable exceptions) aren't pushing for this sort of investing or acknowledging its future.
January 5, 2015
Proud to have Capital Intelligence Associates nominated again for a SANTA MONICA SUSTAINABLE QUALITY AWARD. While we came close to winning last year, our scores weren't quite high enough. And while it is an honor to be nominated we are hoping to improve our application for this year. I've been told that most organizations don't win in their first year and do better with a year of feedback.